Senate OKs Proos resolution urging nuclear fuel recycling

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LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate has approved Sen. John Proos’ resolution urging the president and Congress to support the establishment of facilities in the United States for the reprocessing and recycling of spent nuclear fuel.

“Safe and reliable nuclear energy provides much or our nation’s power and can continue to help us meet our current and future energy demands and create good jobs,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “However, storage for spent fuel remains a problem due to the federal government’s failure to live up to its responsibility to open a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste.

“Thankfully, new technology exists that could greatly reduce the amount of waste needed to be stored. Congress needs to either open a permanent storage site or use the money they collected from ratepayers to build it to help support nuclear fuel recycling.”

Senate Resolution 164 states that the Argonne National Laboratory has developed a high-temperature method of recycling spent nuclear waste into fuel. Pyrochemical processing would ensure almost inexhaustible supplies of low-cost uranium resources for the generation of electricity and minimize the risk that used fuel could be stolen and used to produce weapons.

“Nuclear energy is emissions free, and we have the technology to recycle the waste,” said Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville. “This is a common sense solution.”

Taras Lyssenko, general manager of A and T Recovery in Cassopolis, spoke in support of Proos’ resolution before the Senate Energy and Technology Committee on Thursday.

“Over the past 30 years or so, the U.S. Department of Energy has come up with ways of reprocessing and refining spent fuel,” Lyssenko said. “Reprocessing is at the point where the final waste remaining would be a tiny fraction of what we currently have. We have spent a ton of money to develop reprocessing, and I think it’s kind of strange we keep passing our waste and problems to future generations.”

The federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 called for the U.S. Department of Energy to begin collecting spent nuclear waste and develop a long-term plan for storage of the material. In 2002, Congress approved Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the site of a safe nuclear waste repository, but the U.S. Department of Energy halted the Yucca Mountain project in 2010 despite the Nuclear Waste Fund receiving more than $30 billion in revenue from electric customers throughout the country in order to construct the facility and store the spent fuel.

“Michigan customers have paid more than $810 million for the construction of a permanent storage site, yet we continue to store waste at our local nuclear plants,” Proos said. “Reprocessing and recycling processes can reduce the amount of nuclear waste and the time it must be isolated by almost 1,000 times. Congress should allow this technology to help reduce our nuclear waste storage needs and make our communities safer.”

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos will be available later on the senator’s website at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.